Early modern art
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The Renaissance is characterized by a focus on the arts of Ancient Greece and Rome, which led to many changes in both the technical aspects of painting and sculpture, as well as to their subject matter. It began in Italy, a country rich in Roman heritage as well as material prosperity to fund artists. During the Renaissance, painters began to enhance the realism of their work by using new techniques in perspective, thus representing three dimensions more authentically. Artists also began to use new techniques in the manipulation of light and darkness, such as the tone contrast evident in many of Titian's portraits and the development of sfumato and chiaroscuro by Leonardo da Vinci. Sculptors, too, began to rediscover many ancient techniques such as contrapposto. Following with the humanist spirit of the age, art became more secular in subject matter, depicting ancient mythology in addition to Christian themes. This genre of art is often referred to as Renaissance Classicism. In the North, the most important Renaissance innovation was the widespread use of oil paints, which allowed for greater colour and intensity.
From Gothic to the Renaissance
During the late 13th and early 14th centuries, much of the painting in Italy was Byzantine in Character, notably that of Duccio of Siena and Cimabue of Florence, while Pietro Cavallini in Rome was more Gothic in style.
In 1290 Giotto began painting in a manner that was less traditional and more based upon observation of nature. His famous cycle at the Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, is seen as the beginnings of a Renaissance style.
In the Netherlands, the technique of painting in oils rather than tempera, led itself to a form of elaboration that was not dependent upon the application of gold leaf and embossing, but upon the minute depiction of the natural world. The art of painting textures with great realism evolved at this time. Dutch painters such as Jan van Eyck and Hugo van der Goes were to have great influence on Late Gothic and Early Renaissance painting.
The ideas of the Renaissance first emerged in the city-state of Florence. The sculptor Donatello returned to classical techniques such as contrapposto and classical subjects like the unsupported nude — his second sculpture of David was the first free-standing bronze nude created in Europe since the Roman Empire. The sculptor and architect Brunelleschi studied the architectural ideas of ancient Roman buildings for inspiration. Masaccio perfected elements like composition, individual expression, and human form to paint frescoes, especially those in the Brancacci Chapel, of surprising elegance, drama, and emotion.
A remarkable number of these major artists worked on different portions of the Florence Cathedral. Brunelleschi's dome for the cathedral was one of the first truly revolutionary architectural innovations since the Gothic flying buttress. Donatello created many of its sculptures. Giotto and Lorenzo Ghiberti also contributed to the cathedral.
The 15th-century artistic developments in Italy (for example, the interest in perspectival systems, in depicting anatomy, and in classical cultures) matured during the 16th century, accounting for the designations “Early Renaissance” for the 15th century and “High Renaissance” for the 16th century. Although no singular style characterizes the High Renaissance, the art of those most closely associated with this Period—Leonardo daVinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Titian—exhibits an astounding mastery, both technical and aesthetic. High Renaissance artists created works of such authority that generations of later artists relied on these artworks for instruction. These exemplary artistic creations further elevated the prestige of artists. Artists could claim divine inspiration, thereby raising visual art to a status formerly given only to poetry. Thus, painters, sculptors, and architects came into their own, successfully claiming for their work a high position among the fine arts. In a sense, 16th- century masters created a new profession with its own rights of expression and its own venerable character. .
Northern art up to the Renaissance
Early Netherlandish painting developed (but did not strictly invent) the technique of oil painting to allow greater control in painting minute detail with realism - Jan van Eyck (1366-1441) was the a figure in the movement from illuminated manuscripts to panel paintings.
Hieronymus Bosch (1450?-1516), a Dutch painter, is another important figure in the Northern Renaissance. In his paintings, he used religious themes, but combined them with grotesque fantasies, colourful imagery, and peasant folk legends. His paintings often reflect the confusion and anguish associated with the end of the Middle Ages.
- Italian Renaissance — Late 14th century to Early 16th century
- Northern Renaissance — 16th century
Mannerism, Baroque and Rococo
In European art, Renaissance Classicism spawned two different movements— Mannerism and the Baroque. Mannerism, a reaction against the idealist perfection of Classicism, employed distortion of light and spatial frameworks in order to emphasize the emotional content of a painting and the emotions of the painter. The work of El Greco is a particularly clear example of Mannerism in painting during the late 16th, early 17th centuries. Northern Mannerism took longer to develop, and was largely a movement of the last half of the 16th century. Baroque art took the representationalism of the Renaissance to new heights, emphasizing detail, movement, lighting, and drama in their search for beauty. Perhaps the best known Baroque painters are Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Peter Paul Rubens, and Diego Velázquez. A rather different art developed out of northern realist traditions in 17th century Dutch Golden Age painting, which had very little religious art, and little history painting, instead playing a crucial part in developing secular genres such as still life, genre paintings of everyday scenes, and landscape painting. While the Baroque nature of Rembrandt's art is clear, the label is less use for Vermeer and many other Dutch artists. Flemish Baroque painting shared a part in this trend, while also continuing to produce the traditional categories.
Baroque art is often seen as part of the Counter-Reformation— the artistic element of the revival of spiritual life in the Roman Catholic Church. Additionally, the emphasis that Baroque art placed on grandeur is seen as Absolutist in nature. Louis XIV said, "I am grandeur incarnate", and many Baroque artists served kings who tried to realize this goal. However, the Baroque love for detail is often considered overly-ornate and gaudy, especially as it developed into the even more richly decorated style of Rococo. After the death of Louis XIV, Rococo flourished for a short while, but soon fell out of favor. Indeed, disgust for the ornateness of Rococo was the impetus for Neoclassicism.